As the journey towards becoming a Rabbi/DJ continues, our protagonist finds himself wandering around used record stores in Greenwich Village, seeking music by Prince, Commodores, Steely Dan, as well as Bhangra music and old Israeli folk and popular music from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Surprisingly, they all exist in some form there. In the end, the only purchase is The Commodores Greatest Hits. The pursuit of vinyl will clearly require more research, visits to some yard sales, and the next book and music sale at the JCC of West Hempstead.
Back to class. Our instructor, Noumenon, has returned. Last week, we didn’t do all that well with “dropping it on the ones,” a skill upon which, apparently, many other skills will be built. So, review time. This time, we do a bit better. Along the way, we’re introduced to a guest teacher, DJ Rob Swift. I know the name, if not the music. Even better than knowing who he is, he turns out to be a master teacher. Several times, he comes over to where I am, and immediately knows how to correct my mistakes and teach me the skill that I need. More impressive, he takes a great interest in the young kid in our class (see previous posting), and guides him through the steps with personal concern.
On to the next skill set, the “chop.” Now it gets complicated. As the record plays, I need to scratch the record, while moving the crossfader. This is, for me, a monumental order, requiring the kind of coordination that I do not have. My brain’s mixer has to control a left hand and right hand that are doing completely different tasks, while keeping track of the beat. A few times, Noumenon or one of the teaching assistant comes by to encourage me. Some class members seem very challenged, even more than me. As we go on, it becomes painfully apparent that a few students will not make it, and should stick with just dancing to the music at a club. Somehow, at the end of the class, I am still standing, and relatively functional.
The class ends with a performance by DJ Rob Swift. It starts out pretty impressive. He hits us with some pretty hard rock music, scratching all the way. Then moves to more funky sounds. Next, he ups the ante by using not only scratching and cross fading, but messing with the pitch control to create some incredible effects. Records are changed on the fly, and he mixes two records to create new lyrics, blending lyrics from one record with one from another. Then to prove that he can do it well, he turns the records backwards and repeats this feat, over and over. We’re in awe, but he isn’t close to finished. He mixes with his hands passing under his leg, then turns and does it with the controls behind his back. My need to develop coordination is child’s play compared to what he has just done. He then finishes, humbly, and continues to be the consummate teacher, asking for questions, as we stand agape.
This guy has utterly mastered every control that is on a turntable and mixer, including a few buttons and knobs that we haven’t even turned on yet. But, in his words, there is still much left to discover. For now, I am going to settle for surviving.
I need a neurologist to tell me how to develop the coordination that I need. Are there brain exercises? Maybe one of the rehab staff at the nursing home that Debbie works at knows this stuff. Or someone who has worked with stroke victims or victims of brain injury, where they constantly reprogram parts of the brain.
Time in this class is moving fast. I need to master some of these moves. OK, not the behind-the-back one, but at least the basic ones. Practice time is of the essence. Going into Manhattan is helpful, but not always practical. A local solution is needed.
I’ve put a claim on what we refer to as our TV room at home. Until now, it is the home for our TV, stereo, CD collection, electric beer sign collection and the velvet Elvis mizrach (hanging for the eastern wall). But my new plan is to throw out the TV, get two turntables and a mixer and install them in the middle of the room (the beer signs and velvet Elvis can stay, but the ceiling fan will be replaced by DJ lighting or a disco ball). So far, the idea has not gone over that well with Debbie. Then again, it took me over a decade to convince her that she needed a dog.